Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government welcomes the confirmation by Senator Brian Burston that he will continue to support our business tax cuts in full. The Government will continue to work with all remaining Senate crossbenchers to ensure we secure the necessary support to pass this very important economic reform through the Parliament.
Australian families need their Senate to support business tax cuts in full. That is because higher taxes on businesses in Australia means higher taxes on jobs. Nine out of ten working Australians work for a private sector business. Their future job opportunities, their future job security, their future career prospects and their future wage increases depend on the future success and profitability of the businesses that employ them. By continuing to put businesses in Australia at a competitive disadvantage, forcing them to pay higher taxes than are paid by businesses in other parts of the world they compete with, we are putting workers in Australia at a competitive disadvantage.
Bill Shorten, by opposing business tax cuts, which he has supported for many years in the past, is standing up for business in other parts of the world. He is standing up for businesses in other parts of the world selling out the interests of Australian workers, sending jobs and investment overseas, helping businesses in other parts of the world take investment and jobs away from Australia. That is manifestly not in our national interest. It is not in the interest of families around Australia wanting to get ahead, which is why the Government will continue to work with all non-Government Senators on the crossbench to secure the passage of this very important reform.
Happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Senator Cormann, clearly Senator Burston liked the deal that you both struck back in March. Is the deal still on the table if One Nation decides to change position? Will the Government resume negotiations on that same deal?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government remains committed 100 per cent to what was agreed with One Nation earlier in the year. It is a matter of public record that I was, the Government was, disappointed when Senator Hanson decided to walk away from what had been a very firm private and public commitment that One Nation would support this very important economic reform. Economic reform which is designed to secure our future economic prosperity. Economic reform which is designed to ensure Australians today and future generations of Australians have the best possible opportunity to get ahead. Australians know that their future success, their future prosperity, depends on the future success and the future profitability of businesses around Australia. Nine out of ten working Australians work for a private sector business. If we make it harder for businesses in Australia to be successful and profitable into the future, by helping businesses in other parts of the world take investment and jobs away from Australia, we make it harder for families here in Australia to get ahead. That is why it is so important that the Senate votes for our business tax cuts in full. That is why it is so important for families around Australian that the Senate passes our tax cuts in full.
QUESTION: Minister this is a bizarre situation isn’t it? You have got a situation where you have done a deal with a minor party, that party has walked away from it. One of the members of that party now says that deal was fully agreed. Where does that leave you and do you rule out doing anything extra to bring Pauline Hanson back on board?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It leaves us precisely where we were before. The Government has 31 Senators in the Australian Senate. We need 39 Senators in order to secure the passage of legislation which Labor and the Greens oppose. We have to continue to work with all of the remaining non-Government crossbenchers to secure the passage of what is very important reform for our future economic prosperity and for the future prosperity of Australian families.
QUESTION: Have you spoken to Senator Hinch? And are you still refusing to rule out hiving off the tax cuts for the banks in order to get this passed?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I talk to all of my Senate colleagues as appropriate on a regular basis. As I have indicated earlier in the week, it would not be in our interest to put a cap on turnover as is proposed for future tax cuts. That is because, as Bill Shorten said in a speech to ACOSS in March 2011, if you put a ceiling on the level of turnover for a business to qualify for a business tax cut, if you say that a business tax cut only applies to smaller businesses, you put a ceiling on the future growth of that business, which means you put a ceiling on jobs. You provide a disincentive. We want smaller businesses to become bigger businesses. By providing a disincentive along those lines you make it harder for smaller businesses to become bigger businesses. When smaller businesses become bigger businesses they hire more Australians than they otherwise would. When you have more businesses around Australia hiring more Australians than they otherwise would, there is more competition for workers. More competition for workers means higher wages. If we were to put a ceiling on the turnover at which businesses would be able to qualify for a business tax cut we would actually deliver a situation where wages would be lower than they would be otherwise.
QUESTION: Senator Cormann there is one sitting fortnight left before the winter break and before the by-elections. Will you put this to a vote in that session?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I have already indicated that that is our intention, yes.
QUESTION: And can we just be clear, will you rule out doing anything further to bring Senator Hanson on board, or is the deal that she has the maximum that she is going to get?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I do not make it a habit ever of conducting conversations with the crossbench through the media. I will not start doing that now ... interrupted
QUESTION: Well you have got one on board already.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will continue to talk to all of my crossbench Senate colleagues. I had a very good conversation earlier in the year, I had many good conversations with Senator Hanson earlier in the year. I have had very many good conversations since then. I will continue to talk to Senator Hanson and to others on the crossbench, to persuade them of the importance of this economic reform. To persuade them that we must pass our business tax cuts in full, in the interests of working families around Australia. That we would hurt families and send jobs and investment overseas if we do not pass our business tax cuts in full. Let’s be very, very clear. Bill Shorten is standing up for the interests of the big end of town overseas. Bill Shorten is working to help businesses overseas be more competitive against businesses in Australia. Bill Shorten is quite happy to send investment and jobs overseas. He is quite happy to put jobs in Australia at risk in his pursuit of an anti-business, anti-aspiration, politics of envy agenda here in Australia. He is pursuing a blatant, reckless, political line, which he knows is not in our national interest. In so doing, he is standing up for the interest of big business in other parts of the world at the expense of workers here in Australia. That is what Bill Shorten is doing.
QUESTION: Minister you are applauding Brian Burston this morning, but given your position in the Senate, if One Nation is to fracture in its vote and to be more volatile and vote in different ways, is that a good thing for our Senate and for the Government?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will leave the hypotheticals and the commentary to you. My job and the job of every Government representative is to work to secure the passage of important economic reform through the Senate. The challenge is obvious to everyone. On any legislation which Labor and the Greens decide to oppose, we need to secure the support of nine non-Government Senators on the crossbench, eight actually now. Eight non-Government Senators on the crossbench now since Senator Martin has joined the Coalition. So we need to get to 39. We will continue to work as we have said we would with every single crossbencher to convince them of the importance of this reform. The intention is to get to 39 so that we can secure passage of this reform.
QUESTION: Sorry, so if you put this to the Senate and you do not have the numbers, wouldn’t that just be clearly embarrassing for the Government?
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is not about the politics, this is about …interrupted
QUESTION: But it is.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will leave the political commentary and the observations to you. We have a job to do. We have a job to do for working families around Australia. We have a job to do to ensure that Australians today and in the future have the best possible opportunity to get ahead. In order to have the best possible opportunity to get ahead, we want to ensure they can get a job, a better job, to build a career here in Australia and to get wage increases in the future. A central part of that is to ensure that businesses around Australia have the best possible opportunity to be more successful and more profitable into the future. I do not know where Bill Shorten thinks jobs come from. My message to Bill Shorten is jobs do not grow on trees. Jobs are created by successful, profitable businesses. If you continue to put businesses in Australia at a competitive disadvantage compared to businesses in other parts of the world, you put Australian workers at a competitive disadvantage. Bill Shorten is siding with businesses overseas at the expense of workers in Australia. He should be absolutely condemned for that.
QUESTION: So Senator Cormann, I just would like to clarify the earlier answer. The deal which was under negotiation with One Nation could be revived?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The Government has never walked away from the agreement that we have reached. I have said consistently that the Government remains 100 per cent committed to the agreement we reached with Senator Hanson and the One Nation team. The Government is very appreciative of the fact that Senator Burston has announced that he will stick to the agreement that was reached.
QUESTION: Does that also apply to Senator Hinch because he had some understandings with the Government on company tax earlier in the year?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No, that is not right. If you assert that then you know more than me. I am not aware that Senator Hinch ever has given a commitment to support business tax cuts in full, which is what the Government is seeking. If you are aware that Senator Hinch has made that sort of commitment, I would be quite interested in you pointing me to that public statement.
QUESTION: Senator, can you clarify the latest communications you have had with One Nation coming down on either side of the company tax debate?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Again, I am not going to conduct conversations with the crossbench through the media. What I can say is that I have appreciated the very positive and constructive engagement with Senator Hanson, with the One Nation team, with Senator Burston and indeed with all of my colleagues on the Senate crossbench. The objective is to secure 39 votes in the Senate so that we can secure the passage of this legislation. Let me tell you the Government will not leave any stone unturned. The reason is because the Australian people need us to be successful with this. This is about the best interest of the Australian people. This is about the best interest of families around Australia wanting to get ahead. This is about making sure that Australians today and into the future can get a good job, a better job, build a career, get better wages over time because businesses in Australia are able to be more successful and more profitable. Bill Shorten wants businesses in Australia to have more lead in their saddlebag than businesses in other parts of the world. Bill Shorten is fighting hard to protect the best interests of the big end of town in countries around the world at the expense of Australian workers. That is what Bill Shorten is doing.
QUESTION: Have you had words with Senator Burston?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I talk with all of my Senate crossbench colleagues as appropriate. That is a matter of public record.
QUESTION: You say this is not about politics but is this just putting it up, potentially having it knocked on the head and then doing half of the leg work towards getting a double dissolution election and calling it much sooner than we ordinarily would have had?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will leave the conspiracy theories and the political hypotheticals…interrupted
QUESTION: [inaudible] ... you might do.
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is actually really serious business. I know that you are into the conspiracy theories and into the political commentary and into the hypotheticals. Let me tell you what this is about. This is about making sure that Australians today and into the future have the best possible opportunity to get ahead. You know what, nine out of ten working Australians work for a private sector business. Who do you think is going to be responsible to ensure that we have the necessary jobs for Australians in the future to have job opportunities, job security, career prospects, wage increases? It will have to come from more successful, more profitable businesses into the future. If we make a deliberate decision to put Australian businesses at an ongoing disadvantage compared to businesses in other parts of the world who are paying or will pay less tax, then we put Australian workers at a disadvantage and that would be an incredibly irresponsible thing for the Australian Parliament to do. We call on every Member of the Australian Parliament who is not yet convinced of the merits of this reform to very seriously reflect on this. Look no further than all of the very eloquent and succinct arguments in favour of the need of business tax cuts that were put forward by people like Chris Bowen and Bill Shorten and even the Shadow Minister for Finance, not seven years ago, in recent years. They only changed their position when we put the business tax cuts into the Budget. Talk about politics. Bill Shorten is putting politics ahead of the national interest. He is putting politics ahead of the interest of working families around Australia.
QUESTION: Minister, speaking of the national interest, one area where you do now have agreement with the Labor Party is that the espionage laws have been agreed to. They will go ahead. They are quite sweeping powers. Can you tell us why they are needed? Why are powers like that necessary?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will let Christian Porter and others who have direct responsibility for this area go through the detail in relation to these things. It is always good and it is always important for there to be strong bipartisanship in relation to matters of national security. I welcome the fact that we have been able to achieve bipartisan support on this occasion.